How to Reduce the Number of Programs That Run At Start-Up In 7 Simple Steps

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Oct 26, 2013
Whenever I get a faulty computer to look at, assuming I can get it started, the first thing I do with regard to assessing the state of the system is to press Ctrl/Alt/Del and select the 'Task Manager'.

One does not expect to learn much about human psychology when carrying out such a simple task but after literally hundreds of times of doing this, and on different computers, one does.

For instance, it would appear that people just don't like to refuse anything that the software they are installing offers. We think,

"Well, the box is ticked by default so maybe the answer is yes, I do want to install the Whips and Dungeons tool-bar."

Most people just press Okay>Next>Okay>Okay>Accept>Install...

...and when the installation is halfway through, it pauses in order to get permission to install something else you don't need, but it seems safer to 'agree' to than to 'decline'. And again, it defaults to 'accept'.

In fact, a lot of the programs that are running at start-up turn out to be there because of some of those check-boxes we don't have the courage to un-tick.

Be courageous; un-tick them.

The truth is that many of these programs are useless to you and exist on your system purely on the basis of competing interest between companies looking for your support. It's for them, not you.

And how many updaters need to be constantly in touch with their respective headquarters? I mean, wouldn't it make more sense to run the update utility automatically only when a User starts the relevant application? And even then perhaps only once a week? I think so.

And does an updater need to be that vigilant that it requires permanent space in your memory? I don't think so.

So, we are going to do a couple of things here that will help to clean up your system by removing redundant software, that will improve performance by freeing up system resources and that will help you to overcome the psychological predisposition brought about by living in a capitalist system that compels you to leave the boxes set exactly as the global institutions of the world wish them to be.

Be naughty. Don't have it. It's for them, not you!

Now, put on your Marigolds, it's time to start cleaning.

Step 1 - Getting Rid of the Unnecessary Software.

Let us begin by pressing Ctrl/Alt/Delete and let's have a look at the Task Manager. How many Running Processes are there? It's on the bottom left there. Write down that number and let's go on.

Open Control Panel, it's in the Start Menu, and select Add/Remove programs for XP or 'Uninstall a Program' under 'Programs' if you are using Windows 7.

If you are not viewing Control Panel in 'Category' mode then you should select 'Programs and Features.

Here you will see a list of currently installed programs. Look at the list and try to locate the entries that are referred to in the following list:

1) Search Bars - Many companies, Google, Bing, MSN, install their own Search Bars. Do you use them? Be mercenary - GET IT OUT!

2) Tool Bars - Again, if you didn't specifically request it and you don't need it - GET IT OUT!

3) Automatic Updaters - Aaargh! Why??? I want it to work the way it does today, tomorrow, and the next day. I might consider checking to see if Adobe, or Microsoft, or whoever, can make my life easier but I can do that manually... NEXT MONTH. Maybe.

4) Software supplied by computer vendors - These are bells and whistles that we can do without. Acer, HP, Toshiba, all of them pack their computers with software in order to increase their apparent value. We don't need Sony Entertainment software, Media Player works fine and I think that everyone should install the K-Lite Codec Pack for a one-stop total solution to all you media player needs. Unless you genuinely find this software useful, you should GET IT OUT

GET IT OUT! Get them all out. Funny thing is, companies offer updaters much more readily than they offer up the correct drivers.

While we are here, is there any other program you can see which you know is obsolete or redundant? An ancient on-line game perhaps? GET IT OUT.

It might be that when you uninstall a program, it may want to restart the computer - select 'Restart later' and carry on uninstalling. When you've run out of things to uninstall, then you can restart if that has been requested.

If it hasn't been requested, don't. It's more fun that way. Now we can proceed to the next step.

Step 2 - Computer Manager

The first step was the easy bit; this is a little more complicated and requires a little bit of care.

Right click on 'Computer' ('My Computer' in XP) and select 'Manage' from the drop-down menu.

When that window open, click on 'Services and Applications' then Double-click on 'Services'.

This will bring up a list of services that are available to the system. Some are 'Running', some are 'Stopped'. If you double-click on a service, you will open a dialog box that allows you to change the settings for each individual service.

Is there a service called 'Adobe Acrobat Updater'? Double-click on it.

Now at the drop-down box under 'Startup Type', select 'Disabled', press 'Apply' then 'Okay'.

Is there a service called Intel IAANT Storage... or something along those lines? Do you need RAID control for a multiple drive array? I don't think so. TURN IT OFF.

Do you have iTunes (TM) installed? iTunes installs three services which accounts for four running processes at start-up. How often do you use iTunes? If you only use iTunes as a player then all of these services can be disabled. And even if you do come to require access to iTunes Store or to connect an iPhone or some such device to your system, you can always come back and change the settings back again. The three services are:

- Apple Mobile Device \
- Bonjour Service > (TM)
- iPod Service /

It might be too inconvenient to keep re-enabling and disabling these services because of frequent use but if not, and bearing in mind that these services are actually designed in order to make it easier for you to spend more money, TURN THEM OFF!

Other non-Apple (tm) devices also install services. I have a Creative Zen (TM) and the software that came with it thought I might benefit from two additional and un-requested services. I didn't so I TURNED THEM OFF.

How much media sharing do you do across your home network? Not very much, I fancy. There is a service called 'Windows Media Player Network Sharing Service' - you've guessed it; TURN IT OFF!

You may find Google Update services or some other similar kind of things to do with search bars or tool bars here too; TURN THEM OFF!

I switched off Windows Update here too, on the basis that 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it'. Periodically I might start the service to check if there are any useful updates available. Usually there aren't although Windows Update informs me that I have about one-hundred recommended updates available to me. I just can't see what's in it for me so I don't bother.

I switched of the 'Windows Search' service too as I find it useless. Also it results in two start-up processes. TURN IT OFF!

If you need to search for files, open an explorer window from 'Computer' and just type in what you are looking for in the bar at the top-right of the window.

I go a bit further than this. I have my system backed up so I have no use for 'Windows Backup' service, or 'Nero Backup' or 'Norton Backup', etc., and since I don't need back-up services, I don't need 'Volume Shadow' services either.

I have 'Windows Defender' disabled. 'Windows Firewall' disabled and I even have 'Security Centre' disabled.

I don't suggest for one minute that the average user should go quite that far but I have to say that I have suffered no problems so far on account of it. And I have been this way for years. However, I have a complete system back-up and whatever happens to my system, however corrupted it gets, and I do test this out by infecting myself with viruses in order to find a cure, I can have my system back to the state it is in now within twelve minutes.

We don't all have that luxury so I would always recommend that the security services and volume shadow services be left alone.

Microsoft .NET services can be disabled too and sometimes this can improve system performance. .NET software does cause a number of issues which is why there are a constant stream of reliability updates available from Microsoft. You could simply set the service to 'Manual' instead of disabling it.

Do take care though, careless termination of services can result in a loss of functionality and can cause serious system-wide problems.

The 'Microsoft Office Groove' service isn't necessary either, unless of course it is, like any of these 'services'. TURN IT OFF.

'Remote Registry' - unless you are making frequent contact with your computer from a different computer or you require that people anywhere in the world should have access to your computer through the internet connection, TURN IT OFF.

I set the 'ActiveX Installer' service to 'Manual'. BOOM! One less start-up process.

That's about as far as I dare go with the services management so we'll leave it there and go to step 3.

"Fools rush in where angels fear to tread."

Careless alterations to the registry can result in the requirement to re-install the entire operating system.

It can and so with that in mind:

Step 3 - Tidying Up the Registry.

The first thing to do is click on 'Documents' in the Start Menu and create a 'New Folder'. Name the folder 'Reg Files' then press enter. This is a precaution - we will back up the data we change in the registry in case we need to use it later.

Now, click on the Start button and type 'regedit' (without the apostrophes) then press enter. XP users would use Start>Run and type 'regedit' there then press 'Okay'.

Now, when 'regedit' open, you are presented with a window with two panes in it that resemble a simple 'Explorer' interface. And really, that's all that this is, a simple browser.

In the left hand pane there is a list of five 'folders' (I think there are six in XP) and 'Computer' at the top. These 'folders' all have names that begin with 'HKEY'.

Although essentially we are dealing with 'folders' and 'files', when we are dealing with the registry we refer to 'folders' as 'Keys' and 'files' as 'Sub-Keys.' Apart from that, clicking on the little triangle on the folder, or 'Key', will expand the tree just as it does in explorer.

Let's open one.

Open the HKEY_CURRENT_USER key by either clicking once on the little triangle or double-clicking on another part of the key. This will open up the next level of keys. Look down the list and locate the key that is named 'Software'. Open it. This will expose a third level of keys. Now locate the key in that list named 'Microsoft' and open it to reveal a fourth level.

You need to go down to the bottom of that list and open the key named 'Windows' and then open the key called 'CurrentVersion' that appears in that list which open yet another list which contains a key named 'Run'. Select this key.

Okay, we might have come a long way for very little but when you selected the 'Run' key, did a list of programs show up in the right-hand pane? The programs that start from here are run on a user by user basis. For instance, if you had a gadget or two on your desktop and another user account on that computer did not, then 'Sidebar' would show up here for you but if the other user ran regedit, it wouldn't show up for them.

Do you like the gadgets that much? If so, leave it alone. What else is there?

Do you use 'Skype' (TM)? Well, you might, but do you need to be on Skype at start-up? You can always run the Skype program from a desktop shortcut or from the Start Menu. Plus, do you really need all and sundry knowing whether you are online or not?

On my computer, this particular key is empty, no start-up processes are run from my user run key. I deleted all that there was and we'll do the same here in a minute. But first, BACK IT UP.

The first thing to do is make sure that you have the 'Run' key selected by single-clicking on it in order to highlight it.

Then click on 'File' on the toolbar at the top of regedit and select 'Export'. A window will appear show your 'My Documents' folder where, hopefully, you will find the folder named 'Reg Files' that we created earlier. Double-click on that folder and open it. Just underneath that window is an address bar where you can give a name to your file. Type 'HCURun' in that field and save the file.

Make sure you saved the file by looking in the 'Reg Files' folder which should still be on the desktop. If the HCURun file is there then you got it right. If not, try again and make sure you are typing in the right place.

Now we have backed up that key, we can start deleting. Select all the program in the list in the right-hand pane (except the ones you really can't live without. I really don't see why all of Facebookland has to be in constant communication with me.)

Now press 'Delete'. Go on, be brave; GET IT GONE! If you change your mind later then you simply go back to the HCURun file, double-click on it, blindly agree to everything that Microsoft say and restore the key to exactly where it was which will help the global institutions of the world to sleep more easily.

Also, is there a little triangle next to the 'Run' key? Open it. Adobe have started sneaking their software into the Start-up group; GET IT GONE! Select it, press 'Delete' then press 'Enter'.

Don't think about it, be bold, DO IT!

That was simple wasn't it? We need to do that twice more. Maybe three.

Before we leave this key, have a look and see if there is another key above or under run called 'Run -'. Not the 'RunOnce' key, a duplicate 'Run' key that might have a '-' sign after it. Sometimes there is but if not, cool.

If there is though, back up that key and call it something like 'HCURunB' and then delete all the entries that appear in the right-hand pane.

It is a pain, isn't it? But we are done with this part of the registry and we can close this key so the screen doesn't get too cluttered.

In the left-hand pane, scroll up to the top of the list and find the HKEY_CURRENT_USER 'root key' that we opened up at the beginning to expose the first level of sub-keys. When you locate it, click on the little triangle at the side of it to collapse the key. This should bring you back to having only five (or six) keys in the left-hand pane.

Now, open the key named 'HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE. Then open the 'Software' key that appears, then 'Microsoft', then 'Windows', 'CurrentVersion' and 'Run'. Sound familiar? Yes, the 'path' is identical to the CURRENT_USER path.

Again then, select the 'Run' key and back it up. Call this file 'HKLMRun' and save it. Check that it is saved then we can see what we can delete from here.

What is here will depend somewhat on whether you are using a 32-bit or a 64-bit system. If it's 32-bit the there may be quite a lot here.

Any updaters should be deleted from here as should, in my view, any 'Catalyst', ati or any of those type of program which achieve nothing more than making access to your graphics hardware quicker. Who needs it? GET IT GONE!

The touchpad stuff too, GET IT GONE. TomTom? GET IT GONE!

In fact, on my computer, this key is empty too. However, I don't use anti-virus software but if I did, there would likely be an entry or two here for that and if there are virus programs installed on your machine you might want to leave them alone.

Everything else though, unless you really, really need it, GET IT GONE!

Does 'PCTuner' or whatever System Optimisation software you use really need to be monitoring every keystroke you make in order to optimise your system? Run, optimise and then switch it off. If you need it in the future then you can always run it manually from the Start Menu.

GET IT GONE! In fact, by doing the kind of thing we are doing now, you should have no need for a system optimiser at all and you can GET IT OUT!

Remove everything you can from the list; we can always restore it later if you come to miss those long start-up times and unavailable resources.

When this key is empty, except for the virus stuff which might not go away until you uninstall, check for another 'Run -' key and if there is one, back it up and delete everything in that list.


And we are done here.

The next bit applies to 64-bit systems. In order to make this easier, scroll back up the left-hand pane and locate the 'Microsoft' key we had to open along the way. Click on the little triangle to close it.

Further down the list which contains the 'Microsoft' key is a key called 'Wow6432Node. Open it and then...

Go down to the 'Microsoft' key on that list and open...

...'Windows' > 'CurrentVersion' > 'Run. It's just too easy now, isn't it?

Back up that 'Run' key, call it Wow64Run, check that it did get saved and then delete everything you can from here exactly as I explained for the HKLMRun key we dealt with previously.

Step 4 - The Moment of Truth.

We can now close the registry editor and any other windows we had open and then restart the computer.

Did it start faster?

Press Ctrl/Alt/Delete and run Task Manager - How many running processes are there? How does that compare to the number you wrote down at the beginning?

Are you Happy?

Step 5 - I'm Not Happy.

It is entirely possible that you have an application that relies upon a dongle driver or something being loaded before the app is started. Well, if you can't manually run the dongle driver or whatever driver it is you require, you may want it to be run from the registry via an entry that we deleted earlier.

No worries, just locate the registry file that contains the entry for that key and restore it.

You can check to see if you have the right file by right-clicking on it and selecting 'Edit' from the list. It'll open up in notepad and you will be able to see if the program you want is in that list. If it isn't, close that window and try the next .reg file in the 'Reg Files' folder.

And be careful when you close notepad; if you are asked if you want to 'Save' the document then that means you inadvertently changed something. Select 'Don't Save' and then move on.

If the file contained the program you want to run then simply double-click on that file and follow the steps to update the registry.

When this is done, you can run 'regedit' again, locate the run key you have just restored. Remember where HKLMRun came from? There you can remove all the entries, one at a time if you like, except the ones you want to keep.

Similarly, all the changes made in Computer Management can be undone.

And if you miss all the tool-bars and pop-ups that they bring with them? Don't worry, it won't be long before an updater dupes you into installing all the tool-bars, search-bars, etc., you could ever desire.

Step 6 - I Am Happy.

The computer seems happier, it's performing better. No more will you be inconvenienced by inconveniently timed Windows updates. You've learned a little bit about computers, indeed, you can practically program them now, and you've overcome a psychological constraint.

Of course you are happy. It's brilliant and congratulations; you've freed the real you.

When I was happy with my system, I took one final precaution - I right-clicked on my 'Reg Files' folder and selected 'Properties'. On the screen that came up I checked the 'hidden' check box and pressed apply whereupon the Reg Files folder disappeared from view, safely hidden from accidental deletion. Just in case, like.

If I ever need it back, I don't think I will, all I have to do is go to Control Panel, select 'Folder Options', click on the 'View' tab and select 'Show hidden files and folder'. After I press 'Apply', my folder will re-appear in My Documents and I can use the files.

But, for the moment, I am happy.

Step 7 - All done.

Now you can chill out and enjoy faster, more efficient computing. Play a game, watch Youtube.

Tell your mates all about the benefits of optimisation. Don't forget to mention that you were editing the registry which is basically the central nervous system of the Windows operating environment - it's kinda like brain surgery only it's more complicated than that. Your mates will want you to do it for them. That's got to be worth a pint.

I hope this somewhat wordy guide has been of some help to someone and now I'm going to close down some of my own services and put myself into hibernation where I can attempt the more difficult task of cleaning up my own personal operating system.

The next time I restart, I will have less running processes going on.

As I say, human psychology. :)
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